Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Markets Slump on Abysmal Volume; Politics Plays the Market

Let's face it. The financial meltdown that occurred in the Fall of 2008 damaged Wall Street far beyond anyone's imagination. Whether the crisis was real, contrived or a true panic, the number of participants since then - and the fruitless bailouts that followed - have diminished greatly. While everyone wanted to believe that more players would show up after the Labor Day holiday, the expected rush of traders simply failed to materialize this Tuesday, a stark reminder of the lack of confidence spreading across US markets.

The continuing low-volume regime should surprise nobody. After shrinking from 4-6 per cent in August, the "marketeers" last week managed a roughly 4% rebound in just the first three days of September. Investors are not foolish people generally, and they can sense when something is not right. The consensus among individual investors is that the market is completely rigged in favor of the big brokerages, hedge funds and other not-so-visible participants and have thus departed, some for good.

There's also the question of overall liquidity which has affected the velocity or volume of trade. Smaller firms and individuals are strapped for cash, in addition to being wary of the market, and simply cannot play. This has been the resounding theme since mid-summer, and appears to be actually getting worse as the November elections near.

Indices and averages are being hoisted and levered down by the same parties in an attempt to lure in more suckers (investors), but nobody seems to want to play this game any more. It's pretty obvious that politics are going to play a huge role in the direction of stocks over the next few months, so, despite the market being an unsound place for money, there are two definite directional plays that could be made rather simply.

First, the powers that be are nearly certain to desire an end to the reign of Democrats. President Obama and his cohorts in congress haven't made many friends on Wall Street, so the big money is courting Republicans in the Fall. The first trade is to go short from now until the elections, with the best time to get out right at the end of October. After that, go long, presaging Republican victories in the House and maybe even taking a majority in the senate.

These moves have nothing to do with fundamentals, only with the perception Wall Street wishes to make. They and their Republican lackeys want the economy on its knees heading into November, showing the Democrats to be weak and ineffective, and they have the perfect vehicle with which to accomplish their goal, the thinly-traded, but highly-watched stock market. The Dow should fall below 9500 at some point in the next two months (should be there already), and then immediately after Republican wins on November 2, rally back above the magical 10,000 mark, probably going as high as 10,700 or thereabout.

Sad but probably true, the stock market is no longer a secure platform for trading stocks, but more a political vehicle of the controlling elite. Today's sorry volume figures - and all those of the past four weeks - give credence to this approach.

Stocks spent the entire day trading in a narrow range in the red, finishing at the lows of the day, indicating not only a lack of participation, but a lack of confidence. Not surprising, since the best the Obama administration can do these days to spur the economy is suggest another $50 billion be spent on roads, bridges and airport runways. While that's great for the concrete makers and construction workers, it has no meaning in the lives of average Americans who don't shovel, grind or gird.

Obama also outlined an estimated $200 billion in tax breaks for businesses that invest in new plants and equipment and a $100 billion extension of business tax credits for R&D and, as usual, absolutely nothing for small businesses, those with between one and ten employees, which are the backbone of the economy and entrepreneurship. The federal government would better serve the people by just handing out checks to everyone or doing nothing rather than trotting out the old "infrastructure" canard. It's been done and accomplished nothing already, so another crack at it is merely more grandstanding by a president and advisors without clues. Tax breaks for big business also won't serve to stimulate growth in the economy or create jobs.

Dow 10,340.69, -107.24 (1.03%)
NASDAQ 2,208.89, -24.86 (1.11%)
S&P 500 1,091.84, -12.67 (1.15%)
NYSE Composite 6,959.94, -95.09 (1.35%)

Declining issues took the measure of advancers, 4366-1388, though new highs remained to the high side of new lows, 259-50, though these figures are likely being influenced significantly to the upside by the number of stocks recently delisted (a big secret) and the usual pumping up of otherwise losing issues. As explained earlier, volume continued to be absurdly low, to a point that is increasingly difficult to describe.

NASDAQ Volume 1,566,149,625
NYSE Volume 3,036,956,000

Oil was down again, losing 51 cents, to $74.09. Gold traded in record territory, up $8.10, to $1,257.30 at the close, while silver slipped a little after an impressive weeks-long run, dropping just three cents, to $19.88.

Trading was so thin and reaction to Obama's new proposals so negative, it left many wondering just how long the economy can hold on without another significant decline in not only stocks, but in the overall quality of life. Being that we're only in the second or third inning of this particular baseball analogy, there are sure to be more foul balls than home runs in coming months and years. The market could spin out of control at any time, though the small number of players left on the field might prevent a real slide from happening with the ferocity witnessed in 2008 and 2009.

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